October 14

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 38

(Or, The Increasingly Dubious Events Surrounding Elowen Toreguard)

The group rest, while Elowen tries to sort herself out. Felix helps her trim the vestments so she can actually walk in them, and then uses the spare fabric to craft her some undergarments. She dons the bone armour and is given some food. While she finishes sorting herself out, Felix is examining the contents of the tent and surrounding area. He finds tucked away, behind a rock outside the tent, a box that contains the notes of one Nevil Theramore, some kind of anthropologist who had been studying the kobolds before, they (presumably) killed and possibly ate him. Interested, Felix stows them in his pack for later reading.

The others are chatting and resting, while he continues his poking of things within the tent. Many of the clay jars that sit on small shelves contain bugs or powders – reagents presumably for the cleric to use. In one far corner however, there sits an object under a once-plush velvet cloth. The cloth stirs under an ethereal wind. By now the others have noticed him poking around, and despite their protestations, he pulls back the cloth to reveal a crystal ball. Recalling her last uncanny experience with a scrying ball, Elo screams at him to put that thing back, or so help me, but it is too late.

Felix is held in thrall as images are projected from the ball to his mind. He sees kobolds clambering over piles of dwarven bone, a barbarian kobold doing it’s grizzly job and cutting the heads from dwarves. Then the image shifts and he sees a evil looking man, a necromancer, surrounded by the bodies of dead kobolds. In his hands he holds a glowing orb, which breaks into smaller orbs, each entering the body of a kobold, causing them to rise as Death Knights. Felix feels the man turn to look directly at him, and he says ‘these things are two way, you know.’ With that the connection is severed, and Merri hurries to put the cloth back on the ball.

Elo is recovered enough, and they decide that it would be prudent to move on.

They wander through the winding ruins of a dwarven-now-turned-kobold settlement, with Merri trying to use her dwarven stonecunning to track down a cavern like the one that Felix described seeing in his vision. As they do so, they come across a peculiar sight:

A large group of what seems to be kobold clerics are being led towards a dark maw of a cave entrance. They are surrounded by an equally large number of kobold guards, being harried by a larger than average kobold with a whip, and to the side watching stands an odd looking kobold.

The group decide that clearly these priests are true believers of Kutulmack otherwise they wouldn’t be in shackles, and thus they don’t support the necromancers. Recalling Scrikclaw’s sacrifice for Elowen, and his belief that the enemy of my enemy is my friend , they decide to try and save the priests. Also it means less fodder for the Death Knight pot.

They launch their attack, with Zege and Merri taking charge. A group effort takes out the task master and the weird looking guy who stands to one side, and Zege cleaves his way through the remaining mook-kobolds.

Once the day is won, Felix, who speaks kobold, speaks to the clerics. He tells them that they are here to get rid of the Death Knights and the necromancers, and the group want to know how to find Torg so they can kill him. In return, he says, the group want to release them from their shackles. Elo steps forward with her lockpicks but the clerics are reluctant to trust the group, and shy away.

There is a lot of chittering and yapping from Felix and a lot of gesticulation towards Elo who stands awkwardly and smiles in what she hopes is a disarming fashion until Felix is done. Suddenly there are some very excited yips and yelps and it seems like there is a bit of an argument going on between the kobolds, and a small group try to pull away from the others, while still more come forward and seem to be asking Elo questions. Through Felix, they ask if the grime she is covered with is in fact the afterbirth from Kutulmack raising her from the dead, if Scrikclaw did indeed give his life for her, and she tells them that yes, it is all true.

Elo wants to know why they are asking her such things, and when pressed, Felix reveals that, with a small amount of desperation to make them trust him, he may have mentioned that Elo is the chosen one of Kutulmack – his interpretation of both Scrikclaw and Elo’s rendition of events that she would become a demon, and the God’s vessel. She is shocked and outraged and demands Felix tell them he was wrong, but it is too late. Many of the kobolds are coming towards her, their manacled hands held out in supplication. Besides, it is argued, the kobolds – some of them at least – now trust her, and they can help the group complete their mission objectives. Elo is unhappy, but reluctantly agrees.

“Why can’t we ever just ask for directions?” Enezege.

Elo sighs and sets about freeing the kobolds, however eight near the back, still shy away from her. One freed kobold, who seems to have been elected the leader of their little band, approaches Felix and tells him that these eight belive calling an outsider the Chosen of Kutulmack to be heresy, and they won’t even let her touch them. Instead, with glares and self righteous sniffs, the eight gather up their chains, declaring – according to Felix – they will keep them as a badge of their unwavering faith, and depart back the way they were coming from. Twenty-two remain behind.

Exhausted and out of magic, the spell casters insist on stopping and getting a proper night’s sleep. Felix relays this to the leader of the kobold clerics, who agrees that his people need to also rest. They find a good place, and set up a small camp inside a dilapidated building. Outside the clerics set their own camp up, and come over to ask if the group want to break bread with them. The group agrees – they haven’t had a hot meal in a while, and the look on the face of the leader says his people would be very hurt if the offer was refused.

They eat, set up watches so the spell-slingers will get their rest and the ‘night’ passes uneventfully.

The next morning they wake to see a fog outside their rest area. Merri says it’s not just any obscuring mist, but Obscuring Mist – a spell that protected them while they slept. When the kobolds spot they are awake and moving, the leader comes over. He holds out a hand which glows with green energy towards Elo. She looks to Merri for advice and the Cleric of Moradin, nods yes – whatever spell it is, it’s safe. Elo takes the kobol’s paw and he says, ‘You can understand me now, yes?’ Turns out that it is a spell that allows the entwined creates to speak each other’s tongue as though they were native speakers. The Kobold introduces himself as Cragspine, a Cleric of the first power (as are all his people), and asks if they would like to break fast with the kobolds, as they are boiling water. Elo agrees for the group, and asks if there might be enough water for a bath for her? Zege questions if now might be the best time, but she snaps that she’s still covered in clammy grossness, and she would like a God’s damn bath, thankyouverymuch. Cragspine, hesitantly asks if that is still then the gore from when she was resurrected and he asks if she would allow them to bathe her. She asks for a moment, turns to Merri and quietly freaks out, while the practical dwarf tells her that it’s a religious thing, and if Elo doesn’t want to risk offending their new allies, she will man the fuck up and get bathed by a bunch of kobold clerics.

It turns out it’s not quite as bad as all that. The translation spell helps add nuance to the word ‘bath’, and the kobolds provide a modest, discreet and sacred service. Not all of the creepiness is gotten rid of however, as the gunk removed from her skin, and the used bathwater, are placed in special urns. Minor arguments break out over who should carry them, but all is settled eventually.

While she is being bathed, Felix and the others are discussing with Cragspine how exactly to find Torg and end this damn mission so they can just go home. The helpful kobold provides them with a map of the caves and tunnels that make up the kobold ‘city’ and pin-points exactly where they can find Torg, and the cave where the death knights are made. When Elo returns to the group, clean and dressed, the others are raring to go now they know how to find their target. Cragspine interjects, and asks if Elo thinks the Clerics can be of use in the inevitable fight. She asks if they could find a safer place to hole-up, i.e. not around her. A vote is held, and for his people, Cragspine politely declines her offer, saying that the kobolds think the safest place for them is around her.

With that, they all gear up, break camp and head off to maybe hopefully finally end Torg and the Death Knight menace.

October 11

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 37

With the thoughts of the Clan Chiefs still getting away, Elo and Zeag cautiously go forward through the tunnels, and pause as they come to what looks like a massive arena. An arena that they are on the floor of. The vast amphitheater stretches above them, sharpened bones overhanging the rim to prevent escape to the stands above, and a throne-like area at the far end, opposite them. In it stands a big kobold, one of the clan chiefs they saw before. Under the throne area are the bone-bars of a cage that barely holds some great snarling beastie at bay.

Elo and Zeag consider their options, and decide that actually, this is a trap and one they don’t intend to fall for. But before they do the sensible thing and run the fuck away, Zeag suggests Elo shoots at the chief. If they can get rid of one, then it’s a win. Elo is doubtful, as it’s over a hundred feet away, but gives it her best. She misses the chieftain, but does manage to take out one of his advisors – a kobold dressed in feathers and who does an honest-to-Gods squawk as he dies. All the death really does is highlight that they are there, and the chief begins to monologue about how he will be their end, and orders the beastie handlers to release it.

Elo and Zeag consider that their cue to leave; they take to their heels and run the opposite direction, back through the cave. The handlers start to raise the cage door, but the beastie is impatient and just snaps the bone cage, hurtling after them with glee.

As they run, Elo shouts to Enizeag that when they reach the magic users, he should grab Merri, as she is the slowest of them all, and if she get’s eaten, then the world is doomed. He agrees and as Darrius, Merri and Felix come into sight, the pair start shouting at them to run. By the looks on their faces, they can already hear the great slavering uber-dire weasel, and need no further encouragement. As they pass, Zeag slows briefly to haul Merri onto his back.

Little legs pumping as fast as they can, Felix and Elo keep pace with an encumbered Zeag, with Merri on his back, but Darri takes the lead, putting on a turn of speed that surprises them all. As they run Elo shouts to the others they need to get to the hole in the wall that allowed them ingress to the cavern, and find Scrikclaw the Seer. She has a plan, but none of them ever get to hear it; as they are are almost, almost to the hole, Elo feels the hot rancid breath the slavering beastie on her back. She looks back over her shoulder, stumbles, and then lets out a piercing scream as it’s claws rake her back.

Darrius launches himself through the hole, skidding and in his fear does not notice the pillar of stone until he’s found it face-first.

While the others do their best to take the weasle out, Darrius is found by Scrikclaw. The seer tells him there are another two of the beasties, and their best bet is to carry on running the fuck away from it. With that, he vanishes, as fast as he can hobble away. Darrius ducks back into the cavern and tries to assist in taking the weasel out as Merri and Felix back towards the hole. It is a tough beastie though, tougher by far than poor Elowen. Her screams fade suddenly, and with one small twitch, her soul flees to the hereafter. Zeag is enraged, but Merri pulls him away, as the beastie settles down to eat now that it’s lunch has stopped moving. But it hasn’t bargained for dwarven stonecunning, and Merri casts a trap that activates the moment it breaths, causing piercing stone spikes to impale its body.

The remainder of the group flee, as the beastie roars, and comes after them again. They run into the center of the Kobold settlement, and the weasel follows them, causing kobolds to run screaming in terror. Greatly weakened however, they take it out easily.

The battle over, fatigue and grief take over, and Merri tries to comfort Felix and Darius in the ruins of a dwarven house. Darrius, though he has seen people die, has never witnessed a death so visceral and is blubbing (which is only fair – he is a child after all), while Felix is cursing his weakened magics that has little to no effect on the creature. Zeag is still angry, and spotting Scrikclaw loitering outside, goes to speak to the wizened seer.

He asks the seer, quite simply, if he is able to bring Elowen back to them. She was his responsibility, the squat half-orc says, and if there is a chance to fight for her still, he must take it. She was the closest thing they had to a responsible adult, and they need her back, he says. The seer weighs Enizeag’s words, and finds them worthy, apparently, as he agrees to perform a ritual to bring her back.

Meanwhile, Elo is greeted by a dark robed figure that taps a sand timer meaningfully and tells her she is late. She mutters something about arriving precisely when she meant to, and the glowering figure escorts her to the Gods’ Waiting Room: a sterile white room, with plastic benches, fake plants and low tables with magazines. Apparently Death has nothing better to be doing, as he stays with her, chatting over vending-machine tea, about how Death Knights cut into his soul-retrieval margins. Elo does wonder out loud at some point when someone will be along to fetch her, and Death reminds her there’s a reason it’s called a ‘waiting’ room.

Back on the Mortal Plain, Scrikclaw has lead the group back to his tent, where he prepares summoning circle and components. When everything is made ready he begins his chant, calling on Kutulmack to fetch Elowen from the hereafter, and offering himself in sacrifice. A bleeding rift is cut into space/time and the giant scaled muzzle of the kobold god pokes through the portal. It asks if the seer is really, honestly and truly doing this, and is fine with the whole sacrifice thing, and the old kobold says he is.

Back in the Waiting Room, a bleeding portal appears in front of where Elowen and Death are still drinking vending-machine tea, and the scaled muzzle of Kutulmack pushes its way through. Elo is surprised – she was expecting St Cuthbert, she says. Or maybe Moradin. At the very least Gruumsh (not that she’s overly keen to meet him again). Death advises her the those Gods are a little bit busy right now, and Kutulmack asks if she wants to be resurrected by his cleric. He vaguely mentions the life-for-life clause, but Elo has already said yes, because she’s got stuff to do, people to save and afterall who wants to be dead, right? Death shrugs, says it’s not all bad, but Kutulmack has heard her affirmation and grasps her in a large clawed paw.

At the same time, a claw shoots out of the portal to the Mortal plain into Scrikclaw’s eye, killing the cleric. In the darkness before she appears on the Mortal plain, Elo hears Kutulmack telling her she’ll become his demon and the vessel… Then she is stood in the center of the summoning circle, with only bloody gore to cover her dignity. She stares out as the others stare back, everyone equally in shock.

Then Zege nods, gives a satisfied grunt and turns away. With that, the moment is over and Merri hurries forward, throwing a cloak around Elo’s shoulders. The halfling so covered, Felix impulsively rushes forward and gives Elo a hug. By the time Zege returns with Elowen’s pack, boots and the bone armour of a dead kobold (her own having been understandably totaled), Merri has managed to fish out a spare set of vestments and they have retreated into the tent.

September 14

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 36

Felix, feeling the wrath of the Death Knight turned his way after an unsuccessful spell attempt, tries to hide himself. But the Knight’s attention doesn’t linger on him for very long, as ‘Zege successfully pulls the feet from under it, and stamps on it’s face. Meanwhile the council members have all clustered to the far end of the dias, and are desperately trying to claw their way over each other and get the fuck away. Elo throws a bottle of alchemist’s fire into the throng and is rewarded by anguished screams of burning kobolds, and a slowly roasting corpse. Darius incinerates some brave kobold guards who have tried to creep up the stairs behind them, and the council of kobolds finally get’s away.

After a brief search of the knight and the two dead clan chiefs (alchemist’s fire ain’t cheap), they take off after the remaining clan heads. They follow them into another set of tunnels and come to an area that looks like it should be a warren, but it turns out all the tunnels are very short and lead into a bigger cavern beyond.Unfortunately the tunnels are kobold-sized, and only Elo or Felix would fit. Elo says she will go and have a look around, and tells Felix to stay put when he suggests he should come with her.

Fully intending to just have a little look around and then go right back, Elo slips through into the great cavern beyond. The walls glow with a faint turquoise colour which turns out to be a type of fungus, that illuminates the fleeing backs of around a hundred kobolds nearly a mile away. they vanish into another tunnel at the end of the cavern as Elo is about half way across. She is about to head back when a chanting and drumming begins, and the fungus around her turns a bloody red. Thinking only of the mission, and the need to stop the chanting (after all, since when did anything good come from chanting?), she headlessly presses on.

Meanwhile, the others hear a slow tap-tap-tap of an approaching walking stick, and the seer kobold comes into view. He tells them that Elo is about to do something very stupid, and with great effort he turns a section of the wall into mud, allowing the not-tiny portion of the group to enter the cavern.

With monk-ish bounds, Enizege hurries to Elo’s side and relays what the seer said. Just at that moment, the chanting reaches a crescendo and from the tunnel comes ten kobolds. They look different however, with bone armour and bulging muscles, saliva dripping from painted muzzles under staring red eyes.

Quickly Elo and Zege split apart in a flanking maneuver, with the intention of the magic users – who still stand at the entrance with Merri – to cast down the center. Sadly the Barbarian kobolds move quicker than they would have expected, and two converge on Elo, three on Zege and the remainder getting up-close-and-personal with the sorcerers.

Zege manages to beat up his three, after struggling to adjust to the high difference, and Elo tumbles past her attackers while they are distracted by a ball of fire summoned by Darry. Merri takes out the Boss kobold with a bash to the skull, while Elo after ridding herself of her attackers, takes potshots at the kobolds worrying at the magic users.

Eventually all the the kobolds are taken out, the sorcerers are healed, and they pause for breath…

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September 11

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 35

The dwarven fighters, rescues and rescuers all huddle around, now that the immediate danger has passed. The gnome and the kid introduce themselves as Felix Phileas ‘Nosey’ Parker-Tinker and Darrius Wesker, and they thank Elo, ‘Zeag and Merri for rescuing them. The group start to take their leave, as the dwarves have started to take control of the situation and are shepherding the prisoners away to be bathed, fed and rested. Before they can get away however, Felix offers to buy them a round as thanks for his rescue. At first they are reluctant, but hey, free beer, so they agree and trundle off via Meri’s folks’ place to get felix and Darius cleaned up. while the others wait for them to sort themselves out, merri nurses a pint, and Elo gets some paper and a pen from Agatha, Merri’s mam, and writes a letter to her own, adoptive, mother regarding what happened and to let her family know she is safe.

Eventually they are all sorted and tromp out to merri’s local, the Hammer and Anvil, owned by her Uncle Snorri. Felix gets their first round, and another pint and dinner is provided on the house. Darius says he doesn’t have any cash, and the bartender jokes there’s plenty of dishes to be washed. The others say they’ll spot him, to save him having to deal with Dwarven Dishes, but he pipes up he doesn’t mind doing the dishes. Out of mischief, because the kid is so young (he’s only 15, bless him) they say ‘sure okay, off you pop then’.

While the others enjoy their pint, Darrius is shown to the kitchen and begins the mountainous task of washing the dishes. He doesn’t do too badly, only breaking a few, and about halfway through is presented with dinner as well. He tries the beer and even though it’s watered, pulls a face after his first glug, and lets out a literally explosive belch. Elo goes to check on him, along with Merri and Felix. Darrius is fine, but he get’s shouted at by the Chef for ruining a steak tartar. At some point he calls Elo a titch, and she glares at him, but the Chef starts to give him a proper bollocking, which results in Darius casting Mirror Image to sneak away from Chef. This doesn’t work, as not only does Elo see him, but so does the chef. Darrius is forced to apologize to Elo and then sent back to work by the chef.

It is about this point, in the main bar, that a High Paladin of Moradin comes wearily stomping into the bar. He is handed a pint, and and he takes a deep draught before pounding a well-armoured fist on the bar and decrying the state of the fight. He says that they’re properly down to the dregs of fighters now, and he doesn’t know how much more they can take as a mountain, and even his own son, who’s not even 50, is looking like he’ll have to join the front line.

During this, Elo has glanced at Merri and ‘Zeag, and given them significant looks, murmuring that first thing in the morning they need to head out and get this bloody thing sorted. They nod in agreement, and Felix inquires what exactly this is regarding, but his question is drowned out by the ranting paladin. Eventually Elo can’t stand to listen any more, and she interrupts him, telling him that though they had failed before, the three of them would finish what they started and set out at first ‘light’, to finish this battle.

He instantly knows who they are, and introduces himself as Hamish Orebinder. He tells them that what they did before, even if it didn’t work out, was not necessarily a failure and that if they want to finish what they’ve started, then he might have some options for them, and that after they have finished their dinner, that they should go with him back to his chapter house in order to learn out the plans already in force. He admits however, he isn’t sure that the three of them alone with be enough, and Felix announces that as he is a sorcerer, he will be happy to lend them a hand. A voice pipes up from the kitchen, and Darius’ face appears in the hatchway, and he says he’d also like to go. The group briefly consider it, and Elo agrees, but lays down strict ground rules as how he’s to behave while in the field.

(At this point God-GM asks why, and is reminded that Elo, at 19, is only a kid herself, and wouldn’t be able to handle yet *another* loss)

They eventually finish their drinks and food, and Darrius finishes the dishes (and receives a paycheck – whoo cash!), so they head to the local chapter house of the Paladins with Hamish. They are introduced to a full council of war, with the head of the chapter house in attendance, as well as a few other high-ranking officers.

Since their own forces are getting stretched too thin, the chapter Master has asked for the assistance of the King’s Guard. He has spoken to their head and is confident they will join in the battle. The group are told that not only will Torg be there, but their spies say a council of the clan heads has been called. The main force of dwarfs will help push through the front lines, and create a gap through which the group can slip, and then they will carry on towards where the council is being held and then assassinate the council members. The group agree that sounds like a good plan, and they agree to meet on the morrow and advance. The war-planning ends, and Hamish asks if there is anything he can get them that will help. They say the two sorcerers have nothing to their respective names, so some neophyte packs are provided, with standard kit such as bedroll and waterskins within it. They retire to bed.

The next morning, they assemble in the main square of this level, where a huge force has gathered. There is the sounds of an argument coming from the middle of the throng however, and the group push their way through to see the captain of the King’s Guard and the Chapter Master shouting at each other. The conflict seems to revolve around the fact that time is pressing on and the chapter Master wants to leave, but the King’s Captain has yet to receive official word that he is released from his duties to take his force into this fight. Elo interrupts them and joins in with the shouting. The Chapter Master wants to just leave already, but the Captain says that the King will be here any moment to give the word. They argue for a little bit more and then become aware of a sudden hush descended over the crowd.

Merri pulls Elo and the others aside as through the parting crowd comes a young-ish dwarf, with a massive beard and a crown, attended by the Archlecter. Merri kneels, as do the Captain and Chapter Master, and everyone else follows suit. The King says to the throng, that he stands there not just as King, but as a very worried dwarf, and that he sincerely wants their fight to go well. He releases the Captain from his duties, and give the Chapter master the field on which to win victory. With that he and the Archlecter turn and leave, and the forces match to their places.

In the midst of the fighting, the group are passed to the front and out the other side of the main lines. They hurry through as best the can and into a labyrinth of forgotten dwarven roads. They sally forth until they are within viewing distance of the temple, where a curious sight meets their eyes.

The temple is akin to a ring of standing stones, complete with lintel stones, and a large table in the middle of it. Currently, the table is surrounded by 14 chattering and bickering kobolds, and a human man who stands, tall and aloof. He turns and Elo sees that it’s their very own priest of Wee Jas – Darkhide, the necromancer who tried to sell them to Drow.

He turns to the council and tells them that he and his fellows are pleased with what they have achieved so far with Torg as their leader, but he wonders if they can set aside their squabbling for long enough to finish the job. He tells them that they’ve been given ample resources to complete the task he has set, and he wonders how much longer it will take. He mentions that a portal is being built in Castle Dire to bring through undead reinforcements.

At this point a old, bent kobold, with a hood covering it’s face, says Kutulmack has foreseen that he will be defeated by the five, when the hammer is high in the sky. Darkhide scoffs and says they have been sent running, that Toreguard is being taken as they speak. Another kobold asks what care have the Children of Kutulmack of foreign places, and Darkhide says the kobolds should remember who their masters are. A different kobold tries to object, and Darkhide, angry with their insolence, turns the first objector into another Death Knight. Before any of our heros can fire anything ranged at them, Darkhide vanishes.

The champions absorb this information, and are trying to figure out a plan of attack when the old kobold, his face shadowed still, comes before them and begs their indulgence. Elo is skeptical at best, and keeps her crossbow trained on him until he leads them away and proves to them that, while not exactly on their side, he certainly isn’t on the necromancer’s side. He offers to show them where the other death knights are, but they say they have a mission, to kill Torg and his council, and they damn well intend to finish it. The old kobold sighs and says he will wait there for them when they are ready.

They return to the council arena and scout out a bit. The standing stones, where the clan heads stand, are ringed by the clan’s war bands. Determined to keep Darius out of trouble, Elo directs the group thus: Enizeage and Merri will sneak to one side of the the death knight; Merri will both protect and heal ‘Zeage while he holds the Death knight’s attention. Felix will sneak around behind the Knight and batter him with magic, while Elo and Darius will sneak around to the other side of the stones and take out the council.

It is a good plan, it seems solid, but as usual it does not survive contact with the enemy. Felix, Zeage and Merri set of in the one direction, moving unheard and unseen, while Darius and Elo go the other way… and Elo trips over a guy rope. She falls flat on her face, crossbow flying out of sight, and Darrius freezes, unsure. Within seconds they are surrounded by guards who lead them to the council.

“Look over here! I’m a Distraction!” – Elowen

The council tries to interrogate Elo, but she is snarky. Then they turn their attention to Darius and Elo objects. Fortunately, given all eyes are on her and Darry, the others have managed to move into position and now launch their attack. While Felix, Zeage and Merri execute their part of the plan beautifully, Darrius and Elo are precisely where they don’t want to be. As Darrius vaporizes the guards to one side of them, Elo manages to yoink her crossbow from a different guard, and sends a bolt into his gut.

At this change of events, the council start to run away, leaving a damaged kobold on the table, the death knight to one side and 10 of the remaining 13 in the group’s sights. Darius vaporizes some more guards and then Felix has his go…

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August 21

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 34

When they arise the next ‘morning’ they start to consider what they’re going to do, wondering if help will be forthcoming or not, and Elo posits her going back down and seeing they can rescue their ex-comrades gear at least, so they have spare rations and firewood, but before they can consider it further, there is a bubbling from the water in front of them. They stand ready to fight, but a dwarf in a diving suit dredges himself out of the water in front of them. He greets them and points out their failings quite aptly, saying he found their friends below and mentioning they didn’t get far did they? They tell him to be quiet, since they feel bad enough as it is, without listening to his tactless rambling. They dress, gather their gear, and don diving suits bright by their rescuers, then follow the dwarf across the bottom of the sunken shaft and out the other side. They head back to Merri’s parents to sort themselves out and store Alph and Lorc’s old stuff.

They give the bodies of their friends over to the priests of Moradin, who inter Alphonse with the Dwarves, and to the priests of Galana, who inter Lorcian under the watchful eyes of Granny Apple.

Meanwhile, a gnome and a human child wake to the smell of brine and bubblings of fish-people. They are bound and gagged, and as they look around, they find themselves in primitive wooden cages. a fat oldish kobold and a stern looking fish-dude are stood nearby, along with a group of other fish guys with spears. The kobold tells them they have been captured, the stern fish-dude tells them they are due to be sacrificed to Blibdoolpoolp as part of some war. They object, but there is not much they can do as their bonds are tight.

Back with the group: They have found refuge against their grief and guilt in mugs of ale, and are having a somber pint when a dwarf bursts in, and says they have been summoned to a war council with the local head of the Paladins. Dutifully they pack up their gear and trot off, to be told that a missive has been received from the King of the kobolds – pinned to the back of one of his subjects with a dagger – requesting that the dwarves surrender, and open their gates to the kobold’s masters, or otherwise they will let the Koa Toa sacrifice a bunch of miners and other assorted folk to their ugly-ass goddess. Clearly the dwarves dislike this idea, so they have fought back, bringing heavy artillery to bear, and creating a sort of ‘corridor of death’ through the invading forces and to the temple where the captives are being held. However, while they hold the main force at bay, they need a small group to penetrate the temple and free the prisoners.

Obviously the group agree, so they are taken to the field of battle, and run their way though cannon fire and down the line. Zeag rushes ahead, and Elo and Merri follow on. They push their way through the front and find six Koa Toa waiting for them. They are easily defeated however, with none of the party taking a scratch.

As soon as the guards are distracted by the approach of a band of heroes, the gnome and the kid wrestle in their bonds, trying to get free. Eventually the kid succeeds, and releases the gnome, and they manage to break their cage just as the heros come to free them.

Elo passes Merri a dagger and between the two of them, they free the prisoners. While they are doing so, however the toothed beak and flailing tentacles of a giant squid appear in the pool at the center of the temple. Not all of the prisoners were ‘good’ guys, some were also kobolds and koa toa, which were not released, and one of these cages is caught, dragged down into the depths and eaten. They narrowly avoid being pulled in themselves, and Enizeag decides he doesn’t much like that, so he finds the ‘plug’ for the hole, and tries to fit it. He doesn’t quite drop it right, covering half the hole, and the Kraken objects to having it’s lunch taken away. It reaches tentacles out and grips the plug, flinging it away and breaking it. It then reaches out and catches the edge of the hole, and pulls down, causing the floor to buck and strain.

At this point everyone decides it’s a good plan to leave, and so they start to run the fuck away. Only Elowen pauses, concerned about the kobolds and koa toa still trapped. She aims and fires at a cage, releasing a kobold, only to have it freeze in terror, as the cracks in the floor grow bigger, and reach up the walls. The mighty columns topple over crushing the poor kobold and the ceiling falls, with a squelch of calamari and a cloud of ink and dust. Those tentacles still visible, and uncrushed, slither away into the dark.

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August 19

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 33

In order to get some more info on the path they’re going to take, Drakewing decides to spend the evening in the pub, plumbing the crowd for stories. The others follow intending to have a quiet drink while Drake works, and maybe bail him out of trouble if needed.

They go to a miner’s bar, and Drake introduces Enizeag as the one who beat the Fist of the Mountain. There are grumbles, as it seems the bet was a widespread thing, and one particularly irate fellow comes forward to challenge Enizeag. Funnily enough Enizeag wins, and the other poor chap is laid out and battered. A few clerics step forward to administer aid, and between them a brawl almost starts, but Drake calls out for a round for the house on him, which quells the impending nastiness, he then starts a rousing song. After it they find someone who knows about the the sunken shafts they’re about to go down and who tells them about the fish people and the aboleth.

The dwarf in question tells them a curious and horror-filled tale about how the shaft was sunk, about the sticky-slimy shields of the Koa Toa, and about the glimpses of the aboleth that tried to eat them. He tells them they set anything threatening on fire, and that seemed to do the trick. He goes on to drunkenly extol the virtues of a semi mythical dwarven fighter called Chuckaye Norrison, and the group take that as their cue to head back to the bar…

They wander on back to their beds eventually, Alphonse much the worse for wear, and Mama knits him a pink woolen helm for passing out on her floor.

The next day they go back to the miner’s guild HQ for some last minute supplies. They get seal-skin bags to keep their equipment dry underwater, and look at the diving gear the miners offer, but decide against it as the pipes won’t be long enough.

They don’t even think of leaving some of their kit behind, as they figure they will need it all anyway, and head down to the shaft to get started.

At first things go okay, with ‘Zeag putting on a burst of speed and coming out of the water first. Then Alphonse and Meredith start to get into trouble, with Drakewing following suit. Elo isn’t doing too badly so decides to go back for Alphonse. This does not turn out well for her and she concentrates on getting herself to land first, and does so with some help from Enizeag. They stand on the shore waiting for the others, but when no one comes up, ‘Zeag ties a rope around Elo and she goes back for them. She manages to save Merri but is too late for Alphonse and Lorcian. She tries again and again, though but her cold limbs and tiredness prevent her, and she almost drowns herself. After the second time, Enizeag prevents her from going in again and they take of their wet garments, hanging them out to dry, and build up a fire. Merri summons a Celestial labrador, and they send it back for help, since they are clearly out of their depth. They then snuggle down into their bedding and rest.

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August 17

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 32

Given that the nearest waypoint is back through the temple, they head back, and Merri gives the secret knock. The trapdoor is opened and a priest answers with a ‘well that was quick… oh bloody hell!’ when he sees their haul of bloodied sacks.

Since they are already at the temple, Merri hands the spear over to the priest and says they encountered a death knight who was carrying it. He goes a little pale and takes it from her, saying to wait there, he’s going to take it to a higher priest.

He rushes through a door, and there is the muffled sounds of exclamation. As they listen, those With sharper ears pick up him slamming another door and running further away, but again the sounds of raised voices comes though:

“He can’t be disturbed”
“I wouldn’t ask but this is important”
“But he’s in contemplation!”
“Oh hell… But this is of the utmost urgency. Go and tell him!”

There is more running feet, and after some time the flushed priest re-emerges telling them to follow him. They leave their bags of severed heads and enter a series of passages that grow ever more grand and righteous, and cause them to feel ever more nervous, until eventually they are presented with a set of large fantastic doors. Merri touches one gently and it swings open revealing the innermost sanctum of the High Temple of Moradin. Inside, leaning on a staff of precious metals and wearing a golden mask in the likeness of —, is the Archlector.

They all perform various gestures of reverence, and he inclines his head slightly towards them. He asks Merri to show him the spear that they found and she holds it up, covered, for him to see. He takes it from her, and examines it in ways they cannot ken, and questions them. Eventually he says that the spear was made by the secrets of death it’s self, secrets that could only have been obtained by the god Vectnar. It is old, old magic, he says, and he seems very perturbed, and goes on to tell them that if this magic is being used then their enemy is powerful indeed. They tell him about overhearing mention of a ‘cabal’, and they can feel the worry radiate off him, even though they can’t see his face. He tells them to go, he needs to study the spear and meditate on what might be needed next. They leave him to it and walk out with the best semblance of calm they can.

As they pass through the lesser corridors of the temple, people stop and stare at them in a very unnerving manner. they collect their severed heads, and take them off to the miner’s guild to obtain their bounty. As they move through the mountain, people part for them and stare. At first they can’t quite understand what’s going on, but Merri explains that it’s extremely rare for any other dwarf but the Archlector to be in the contemplation chamber, incredibly rare for that dwarf to be a lowly cleric like Merri and unheard of for ‘outsiders’ to allowed entrance. News also travels faster than the wind it seems, as everyone that crosses their path knows about the event. They hand their heads in finally at the Miner’s Guild and Guildmaster Picktooth keeps praising them, and saying ‘well blow me’ a lot.

They decide now might be a good time for a drink, and Elo announces she wants the shittiest rotgut that can be found. For some Gods unknown reason the others follow her to the shittiest bar that is probably in the golden mountain – a Dive, as Alphonse quips, so low, it could be under the sea. Elowen is handed a greenish coloured liquor. A drink, she is told, that has been triple distilled through a pair of old tights into a bathtub, and maybe once upon a time was made from something like grain. She takes a few sips and in a spectacular display of hallucinations and mild poisoning, get’s instantly bladdered. It certainly takes the edge off. The others’ worried for her safety, pick her up and take her back to Merri’s parents where she is fed some block-coffee and sobered up.

The next morning, while Elo is nursing her hangover, and the others are doing some shopping, Enizeag seeks out a dwarvish monk he has heard about known only as ‘The Fist of The Mountain’. He enters a dojo in a remote area of the mountain, and tells the dwarf inside that he seeks training. The dwarf nods and they start wailing on each other. It’s a close thing, but just-and-just Enizeag wins out. Another dwarf comes by having heard the commotion, and takes both ‘Zeag and the Fist to the temple to be healed.

The others have returned to Merri’s folks and while eating lunch receive another summons from the Archlecter. They head back to the temple and meet up with ‘Zeag who tells them what happened to his bloodied and bruised face. There is lots of cussing on Merri’s part – apparently there is a long-running bet on the Fit never being beaten and Merri’s Da is one of those with a stake in the pot. They go back through the impressive corridors to the contemplation chamber and greet the Archlecter.

He summons a magical crystal and leads them inside, and tells them that in almost two thousand years the dire magics that they brought him have not been seen, and they clearly need more advanced kit if they want even a hope of defeating what lies in front of them. He puts his staff in the center of the crystal, and hairline cracks form, and at their terminuses pedestals form, each with an item on it. He tells them that this kit belonged to himself and his own adventuring party many years ago, and he hands it out to them, saying he hopes they will treat it well.

Alph gets war hammer, Merri gets a mace, Enizeag gets gauntlets, Lorc gets a composite short bow and Elo gets twin daggers. With the handing over of each item, the Archlecter asks them if they will pledge themselves to the defense of the mountain and the world, in Moradin’s name. They all agree.

With that, they leave the crystal, and are send on their way. They return, via some healing for ‘Zeag, to the miner’s guild. There they are told that given the severity of the infestation, the Paladins have taken the main fight with Kobolds. But the problem of the kobold-boss still remains, and so they are asked to go and take him out. They are given two options for getting to him – Through the clusterfuck of fighting, or via a partly submerged tunnel. Both will take equally long, but the submerged tunnel is a long forgotten path that will bypass the fighting and take them directly to the kobold stronghold. The group opt for taking the secret tunnel, and prepare themselves for the journey’s particular trials, and the beasties they might encounter on their way – Koa Toa or maybe an Aboleth.

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July 20

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 31

When they approach the cleft in the rock, the group hear a kobold voice crying out in common, “Intruders! Intruders are here!” Another, rougher, voice tells the kobold to go and kill them, as it has all the tools it needs, gifts from the cabal, and to stop whining, get it done or their masters will be unhappy. The kobold responds by calling it’s men to arms.

Alerted to the fact there is a platoon of kobolds headed their way, the group take up positions around the cleft, intending to use it as a choke point; Enizeag and Alphonse take front and center, Merri stands to one side to flank and provide healing, and Elo and Drakewing provide ranged support from the back. This quickly falls apart however, as Alphonse, eager to get into the fray, drives forward, with Enizeag and Merri close behind. With their enemy caught in the middle of the cleft, Elo and Drakewing are forced to move forward also. Between them they make short order of this group, but another waits at the tunnel entrance. Suddenly from deep within the cavern on the other side of the cleft a ball of eldritch fire comes forth, flickering purple and electric blue. Enizeag easily moves out of the way, and while Alph is quick on his feet he still gets singed. Unfortunately Merri gets the brunt of the attack, but the ball of flame dissipates by the time it reaches Elo and Drakewing.

‘Slit, slot, hear the bodies drop, and the crossbow twang as the heads go pop!’

Peering through the dimness, Drakewing can see what they thought was the dire woozle but now revealed to be a skeletal dire woozle. Mounted on it’s back is a kobold-sized creature, but where it’s eyes should be are only twin flickerings of flame. Drakewing curses, and tells Elo that it’s a Death Knight sat there, like a wight but with it’s soul bound to an item. He explains to her that it’s sort of like the intelligent blade of Honour, but not.

‘Why do dead, suddenly appear, every time, I am near? Just like me, they long to be, corrupting you!’

Meanwhile Alph and Merri edge back towards Elo and Drakewing, with the intention of encouraging the kobolds to come to them, but the kobolds don’t seem to like this idea, and instead retreat further back into their cavern. Enizeag though has other ideas, and rushes forwards to lay about him, but find instead a group of kobold skeletons waiting for him. After a run-by-healing from Merri, Alph moves forward with the intent to assist Enizeag, but he is too far away to do much. He sheathes his sword and picks up a crappy crossbow from a fallen kobold and uses it on the remaining squishy kobolds as he advances. Merri, Drakewing and Elo all follow him at varying speeds, with Lorcian unleashing a sound burst that shattered the skeletons, including the Death Knight’s mount. Eventually all the skeletons are dead, the remaining kobolds run away and it is just them and the death knight. The two magic users spend their time healing the Knight, sending positive energy scalding into his negatively charged body, while elo hangs back and punches holes in the Knight with her crossbow. But every hit that Enizeag and Aph land seems to do nothing at all. Angry now, Enizeag trips the Knight, sending him to the ground where he suffered a thoroughly ignoble death of being kicked to re-death on the ground.

When they are done pummeling him, they go to investigate the items he had on him, and see he’s wearing kobold-sized black full-plate armour covered in a frosty rime. Clutched in a paw is a spear, that the runes of which fade as he dies. Elo and Merri go to relive the body of these items, and the bone crumbles away to dust. Merri carefully wraps the spear in a cloth and tucks it in her pack with the intention of taking it to the temple for analysis, while Alph, Enizeag and Drakewing collect the remaining kobold heads to cash in at the next way-station.

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July 12

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 30

Dinner is had and things are discussed, namely the need of funds, and the need of an honest job. Eventually the group heads to bed, while Elo sorts herself out with some vague clothes made of her borrowed cloak. The next morn they head to the miners guild, as Merri’s Da has suggested since, aside from Lorcian, none of them have a proper profession but Swords-for-Hire, and apparently there is a bit of a kobold infestation.

They find their way into a grad building, and talk to the guildmaster, Grungni Picktooth who greets them with open arms when they tell him why they’re there. He shows them a map covered in red pins, and says they can name their price if they think they can make a dent in the kobolds. Elo says 2gp a head, thinking she’s aiming high, but he readily agrees. They study the map and notice that the knot of the kobolds are around the under tunnels they came from before. Alph mentions the trolls, and Picktooth says if they can bring back a troll head they’ll get 100gp for it. Elo mentions the kobolds they ran into before seemed a whole lot more intelligent than they should be, so maybe there was something behind them, driving and organizing them. She asks if the guildmaster has any enemies, and he mentions a Nori, the head of a miner company that was unhappy with price hikes. Elo nods and says they’ll keep an eye out.

Merri leads them back to the main temple, and they pass one of the high priests who recognises her (is there anyone who doesn’t?) and when he hears of their job, he hands them a satchel of health potions and good wishes.

They head down into the tunnels and are soon met with a multitude of kobolds. They fight their way through, finally beating this part of the horde and take a moment of rest, only to see in the shadows distant a figure hunched over on what can only be another dire woozle, vanishing into the caverns beyond.

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July 10

Destiny’s New Servants, Part 29

The group, such as is left, stand around, a bit befuddled for a moment. Alph goes and rummages around in Daraja’s pack, taking his rapier and coin purse.

The rangers look around, as Merri – very upset about her beard – starts at one of them. He holds up his sword, and warns her back, saying he has no idea what just happened, but as far as he knows, they’re still fugitives and he wants to take them back to the city. There are a few harsh words exchanged, but the rangers generally have the upper hand, so Drakewing offers them surrender, so that they can bury the dead, and take Daraja and Stringwhisker’s bodies back to Toreguard. They set about making stretchers and prepare for the long walk back.

Elowen is woken by Captain Withnail bringing her breakfast – bacon, eggs, toast, porridge – but she is hungover and doesn’t want to eat. He tells her that he’s resigned and she is annoyed, but understanding. He tells her there is more for her out in the world, that she should leave Toreguard to rot, and she can’t hide in cell forever. He goes on to mention that he’s left a pack for her, and he’s going to leave the door open for her. She tells him she’s not going anywhere, but all he does is nod, and says he’ll take the key so she can’t lock herself back in.

“There’s nails in here you know! I can just as easily… un-pick the lock, and close it again…”

The party on the road enter the city and are surrounded by city guards. They are allowed to pass through to the Garden of Galana, where Daraja and Stringwiskers are intered. The rangers, not really sure what to do with them, offer to escort them to Drakewing’s house, but a guard gives a meaningful cough, and they are taken back to the north precinct.
They are introduced to the new captain, Leo Tharrus, a quality sort of chap who has a salt-n-pepper tash, white pony tail and glass eye. Some words are exchanged, and he then gives the order for them to be taken downstairs, where they see Elo is still sat in her cell, breakfast mostly gone and door open. When she sees the others she leaps up and starts screaming at them demanding to know what in all the God’s Names they’re doing back, and calling Alph stupid and idiot. Some more harsh words are exchanged, and Elo beats her fists on Alph’s chest. Eventually she calms down, and throws her hands up with a cry of ‘to hell with the lot of us’. Alph says something else to provoke her, and she throws the porridge at the bars and sprays everyone. They are all locked up, and Merri requests her priest. Tharrus agrees, and leaves as Alph continues to argue with Elo, who continues to berate them for coming back and throw crockery at Alph.

Upstairs Enizeag is given his bounty, and is wandering back through the watch house as the priest of Moradin walks through, recognises him, and grabs him as he passes through to talk to the others. Merri starts by admitting she lost the scrolls, and explains what happened. The old priest is surprised after she tells him that there was divine intervention. He becomes excited and examines both Alphonse and Enizeag, and proclaims them to be newly formed and whole, as a child. He says they must find a way to escape, as Moradin wouldn’t have bestowed this blessing on just anyone. They must surely be special and important in some way to his divine plans, and thus can’t be permitted to rot in prison, despite what Elo thinks. He gives them a rousing speech about the job they have before them, to save the city and quite possibly the world along with it, and that they can’t do it from the wrong side of bars.

His time with them comes to an end, and is asked to leave by a watch officer, so the priest takes Enizeag to the Temple of Moradin, gives him some better robes and charges him with not only freeing them from the prison, but their bodily and spiritual safety from now on. Enizeag thinks hard about how he is going to get them out. As the old priest noted, ‘there is no polite way to get it done’. Thinking to cause a distraction and half-sneak them out, he heads to the church of Olidammara and looks for Cece. Unbeknownst to him, she is actually a psychotic duplicitous bitch. She readily agrees to assisting him in causing a ‘distraction’, if it’ll get her little hunnybuns (also known as Alphonse) out of jail.

She requests some bodies from the city morgue, and Enizeag provides them, not too sure about her plan, but unfortunately trusting she knows what she’s doing. Once she’s received them, she begins to raise them and then goes all out crazy-town. She takes them in the hearse he’s ‘borrowed’ and sends them into the North-Gate watch House, shrieking like a banshee, and directs them to slaughter everyone in their path. It’s a bit of a ‘you were only meant to blow the bloody doors off’ situation, but Enizeag the pragmatist takes what he’s got and works with it, making his way down to the jails under the watch house.

Down below the others are surprised to hear the commotion, and are wondering what’s happening, when Enizeag bursts through the door, the cell keys in his hands. he releases them all, and tell them they have to get moving. Elo is reluctant, but before anyone can do anything Tharrus comes running through the door. He shoves it closed behind him, and starts wailing about the undead and the murderous bitch above. All eyes turn towards Enizeag, and someone asks what he’s done. Before he can answer, the door goes flying open and Cece comes through. She greets Alph fondly, gives a nod to the others, and hauls Captain Tharrus to his knees. She says something about the days of people not taking her seriously are at an end, and she snaps the Captain’s neck with about as much remorse as if to a chicken. Elo and Alph cry out, and the others look a little bit sick. Cece taps Alphonse on the bum, and tell him he ought to be on his way now. She turns to Enizeag, thanks him for a fun time and then also indicates they should probably get a shift on. Elo is outraged and says if ever they needed to stay put it was now, but Enizeag encourages her to leave by picking her up. She slips out his grasp, grabs the bag and weapons that Captain Withnail left her, and sulks out.

Upstairs is carnage and both Elo and Alph are appalled. Cece offers no remorse, so Elo tries to sling a dagger in her back but it goes wide. The others are ushered out to the waiting hearse, and Alph and Elo hurry to their offices to check on their partners. They are fine, but shaken. Elo offers thanks they’re fine and tells them she’s so sorry for how all this has turned out. Enizeag picks her up, throws her over a shoulder while she can’t protest, and they all leave Toreguard in the hearse.

Two days on the road to Fangthane and they come across an outpost of three men. It is badly kept and little more than a tower, but they decide to stop to at least give the horse a rest. They meet two of the men, Harold and Henry of the 43rd Company Road Wardens, straight off and they offer to put the kettle on while they chat about why they are on the road. Elo is not happy about how much the others are keen to tell the guards, and wants to move on, but that changes when the third of the Wardens, Anthony, come back. he is rude and disrespectful, and Elo is very keen to put him in his place but the others prudently drag her away before a fight can start.

They continue on towards the gold-capped mountain and eventually come to the border between where the Plains end and Fangthane’s land begins. there is a noticeable difference in upkeep of the two sides, and a few miles in from the border is a small settlement surrounding a dwarfish watch tower. They elect to stop there for the night and rest the horses again. Because it is a bigger settlement, Elo says someone should look after their hearse and volunteers herself. The others reluctantly agree, and vanish into the inn, where they order food and pay for rooms and sabling. They also send someone out to ask Elo what she wants, and initially she is reluctant, as she has no cash but the enthusiastic dwarf says she must have something, so she asks for a cup of tea and some bread. He brings her a thermos and a massive sandwich. As darkness falls Drakewing asks her to come sleep inside but she insists someone should stay with the horse, and so they bring her another thermos of tea and a blanket and let her be. The next morning they purchase some rudimentary arms and armour with what little cash they have on them, and continue on to the mountain.

After another few weeks, they approach the base of Fangthane. The guards tell them they can’t come in, and Merri shows him the letter from the High Priest of Moradin in Toreguard. He peers at her, and says something about her wanting to get out so desperately, now she wants to come back in? but the seal and addressee on the letter convince him, so they open the gates a crack for the hearse to rumble on through. The hearse and horses are subsumed by the mountain and the group is escorted to one of the high priests. The letter is handed over, and read by the dwarf with increasing incredulity, muttering and a final ‘Well. Shit.’ He gives them another speech, this one about iron having to be heated and tempered before it can be an effective weapon. So buoyed, he sends them on to Merri’s folks for some rest and to figure out what the hell they are going to do about the big nasty dragon, and the big nasty leaky portal.

They arrive after having apparently seen everyone who might know Merri in the whole damn mountain, to hugs and beer. They explain what happened and Merri’s mother coos over her while her Dad tells embarrassing stories. Elo says they’re going to need some new gear if they want to take on the whole Drakemar empire, but all she has is the damnable tainted coins from the Emissary. Gruk recoils in horror, but then seems to have a thought. He asks them all out back to his mini-forge while Merri’s Mam finishes dinner. He gets them all to put their tainted gold into a crucible which he heats, and pours the liquid metal into a dagger cast. He says he will fashion it into a killing weapon for them, so they can take out the dragon with his own poison touch. They return to dinner and chat amicably.

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